STORMONT EXCLUSIVE: ‘The Draft Agreement Text’ – By Eamonn Mallie and Brian Rowan

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This website has obtained a copy of what is repeatedly described as ‘Draft Agreement Text’ between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

The document habitually references “the parties…”. It is the draft paper that gave rise to hopes of a breakthrough deal on the weekend beginning Friday February 9th.

It confirms many of the details exclusively revealed by Eamonn Mallie and Brian Rowan on this website last weekend.

We headlined: a document of a dozen pages or more, plus annexes and separate commitments. The document now obtained is 13 pages long with additional annexes.

On page 5 under the heading: Respecting Languages and Culture, there is specific reference to the Irish ( Respecting Language and Diversity) Bill and the Ulster Scots ( Respecting Language and Diversity) Bill and a Respecting Language and Diversity Bill.

It has to be stated that square brackets obtain in this eight-line paragraph – meaning it had not yet been signed off and agreed.

The document spells out that draft legislation is in an annex.

It says: “the legislation will be introduced concurrently to the Assembly and will pass through the legislative process simultaneously.”

Sinn Féin insists that at the end of this process the three bills become three Acts.

The DUP has repeatedly made clear it will not accept a stand alone act.

On Saturday this website revealed new proposals to prevent an early collapse of the political institutions in the event of a resignation at the top of the Executive.

We reported a new agreement would afford an initial period of six weeks and an additional period of some months. The text stipulates this would be a further 18 weeks.

Separately there is confirmation of a review of the Petition of Concern.

In the event of an agreement, a Coalition Management Committee was to be established – an early warning system to flag up any issues.

The draft agreement deals with priorities for the incoming Executive – not yet finalised but focused on health and Brexit.

This website has definitive proof that on Friday evening February 9th named senior Sinn Fein and DUP personnel were corresponding​ under the heading ‘Draft Agreement Text.’

This included members of the DUP negotiating team.

So, there were pages of fine detail by February 9 but just five days later the talks had collapsed.

How could there have been such misunderstanding at such a late stage?


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About Author

Eamonn Mallie

I am a regular contributor to discussion programmes on TV and radio both at home and abroad. An experienced political editor and author specialising in Politics, Security and 20th Century Art.


  1. Dr Francis Teeney on

    All great leaders should be one step ahead of their people. Mind you only one step. Methinks that someone got three or four steps ahead and had not prepared their base correctly

    • lol oh deary deary Wendy we dont have a date on this page, therefore we dont know at what stage of the talks this page was current. I also want to comfort you with the knowledge that the all singing all dancing Lord Carson was a fluent Irish speaker, now, surely if its good enough for him it should be good enough for the rest of you…

      • Hi Sineadrua, my wife and I would love to speak Irish. She might achieve this but, unfortunately for me, I struggle with it as I did with other languages such as French, Polish and Lugandan (A dialect used in parts of Uganda). However, we don’t need any law to cover it. It is there for all to share irrespective of nationality or background. When we go to the Gaeltacht area we rarely hear anyone speaking Gaelic which I find quite sad.
        I also think the idea of a law governing Ulster Scots is quite silly even though I often use words derived from Scottish Gaelic in my day to day speech.

        I fear for the politicisation of any language as it adds to the division rather than encouraging the use of the language. Meanwhile every other aspect of political life is hemorrhaging because of this.
        The politicians should get into Government as they stood before the people to do and we can have a referendum on our language(s) to hear the peoples’ voice.

      • I would be very interested in knowing how many politicians actually use the dialect Ulster Scots, or indeed how many people use it daily.

        • William Davidson on

          The politicians who use Ulster-Scots would, I assume, be those from the only area of N.I. where it is still strong, i.e. North and East Antrim. I was brought up speaking this despised patois and still do when I’m in my home area, which is the Braid Valley between Broughshane and Glenarm. I think the last census put the number of speakers at around 35,000, which sounds about right. I’ve never met a single speaker who thinks there is any need for an “Ulster-Scots Act,” hardly surprising as their mode of speech is a natural, organic part of their everyday lives, so why would they need an Act.
          I personally resent the cynical adoption of Ulster-Scots by certain Unionist politicians, most of whom had no intrinsic interest in it. I’m also irritated by the air of sneering contempt which is habitually adopted when referring to it, usually from a position of complete ignorance,by people with no knowledge of it, or of its place in the socio-linguistic history of Ulster. This follows in a long tradition : if you read the Ordnance Survey Memoirs, written in the 1830s, their English or Anglo-Irish compilers, made no secret of their contempt for the Scots dialect of large swathes of counties like Antrim, or for the people who spoke it, whom they considered to be sadly lacking in the expected servility and deference and who were doubly tainted for having been active in the 1798 rebellion. Fancy that : Ulster-Scots speakers as the original republicans, it’s enough to have the D.U.P. drop them, or Sinn Fein to adopt them.

      • How else would we be able to maintain the pretence that Ulster-Scots is a language rather than a dialect used as a political pawn introduced by bigots to counter any progress or advancement in the promotion of the Irish language ?

  2. Just a thought for unionists….it is possibly a good idea to ingratiate yourselves to the impending and unstoppable nationalist majority . Give before its taken

    • Hardly makes “common sense” to even suggest that there is a direct correlation between the number of Catholics and those who call themselves Nationalist much less any equation with those who would vote for a united Ireland.

  3. Dear DUP voters…..while I appreciate that parity of esteem , equality ,shared space and respect for diversity may seem nebulous unnecessary concepts to you I can’t believe you fail to understand basic mathematics or to put it another way ,that I know you understand even though it is in gealic …tiocfaith ar la….and there is nothing you can do to stop it

  4. Podraig O'Corrain on

    A few doubters here about the honesty of Sinn Fein…It may well be that this particular copy had Square brackets but We may well see one that doesn’t later…On the honesty question the D.U.P. agreed and signed up to the Irish Language Act, (St. Andrews Agreement) and now they have broken a promise to an International agreement so, who again are the dishonest players here? who knows…between times it should be remembered that Sinn Fein are not denying equality to anyone…Unlike Unionism that has practiced sectarian exclusionism, bigotry, Gerrymandering,and good old fashioned intimidation towards the Nationalist/Republican community since the start of Partition. As was mentioned above by Common sense…Perhaps it’s time for Unionism to show a little respect towards what is now the Republican/Nationalist Majority here in the six Counties in waiting…Your bigoted, Paranoid, and small minded attitude will bring about a referendum on the Border issue sooner rather than later…Your ignorance, and Intolerance is pulling the Union Jack carpet from below your own feet…Adh Mor.

  5. Eamonn and Brian – your words “it has to be stated that” .. [square brackets existed] just oozes such despair and disappointment that Mary Lou was proven wrong. Square brackets existed and thus, no final agreement had been.

    I am disappointedor the people of N Ireland that no agreement was made but certainly not party to point scoring one poor politician over another.

  6. Why won’t the Secretary of State pull the plug on this nonesence and reduce MLA’s pay. They have spent 14 months doing absolutely nothing other than talking. They are no further on. The Gaps are as wide as they have ever been. The cost of this mess must be colossal while our hospitals are going down the pan. I am a Protestant and I am not frightening of the Irish language but I would like to know how much an Irish Language act would cost. As for Ulster Scott’s I have no interest whatsoever…it’s just a dialect not a language and a total waste of time and money. S.O.S. get a budget together and forget about talks for a couple years and reduce MLA’s pay…that’s the way forward….stop wasting time and money on this lot and definitely no more elections…a Total Waste Of Time and Money

  7. So, where we see [squared brackets] we should read, in reality [The Parties have not yet agree to…….]. Unless of course there are later versions of the ‘Draft’ Agreement which remove the [brackets]. I don’t underestimate the sensitivity and complexity of reaching an Agreement given the polarity of DUP & SF, but is this really all the two parties have come up with in 14 months? I can’t believe PM May & Taoiseach Varadkar were hauled in with this version of the Draft? More to follow me thinks? Keep up the good work Eamonn & Brian; great journalism.

  8. Appears that what we have here is a case of Much Ado About Nothing. Even the English Bard would have struggled to script this one. More a case of ‘A posse ad esse’ for Arlene and Mary Lou

  9. Edward Kelly

    Agree 100% with Harry ,If sf want ila let them pay for it ,same goes for Ulster Scots . Everyone can go to night classes and learn any language they like at their own expense, and the money what sf and dup want spent on this nonsense go towards our hospitals and schools.

  10. There has been much confusion throughout these talks.There was even more confusion and incoherence produced in the media and especially on phone-in radio shows such as the blighted “Nolan Show”, with much nonsense talked and left hanging in the air , uncorrected or rationally debated .Hysterical unionist ex-politicians even threatened to break the law should any Irish signage appear at the bottom of their street(well …so what else is new?…Hasn’t that always been the fallback position of a strand of unionism that got everyone into this mess in the first place , a century ago? ; irrational tomfoolery all of it, allowed to spread over the airwaves; yet that is what we are expected to believe is rational debate about a subject of language and culture that represents the cultural lodestone of those native to Ireland…or specifically almost half the population of Northern Ireland and most of the remaining island.How are they expected to represent their specific Irish individualism in a similar way to Unionists as they already present theirs annually and on every street or public building? It’s not really such a big ask.These are Irish people living in a part of Ireland ,after all.
    Gregory Campbell is then wheeled on to “theView” with his Tourette’s fixation in the shape of that bete noir Gerry Adams… he’s had flu for a few weeks but someone should tell him that Gerry’s gone now .Intemperate blatherings follow from others about how the introduction of a language would somehow “dilute” the “British culture”, particularly of specific individuals and areas.Yes we know that unionists see themselves as nebulously “British” (“whatever that might mean for each individual”…as Prince Charles might say when questioned about the concept of “love”), but nationalists have no problem whatsoever in embracing their simple “Irishness” of which the Irish language is only a sop to that longing and adherence to birthplace. Living in a part of Ireland , no matter who currently runs the show, makes them feel no less “Irish”, but they want that simple fact recognised and respected in a deliberate way.
    Where is this paranoia for culture and languages seeded in unionism? Is it fed to these frightened individuals at their mammy’s knee? Does listening to rock and roll music turn them into raving , drug-addled, glue-sniffing sex -maniacs lest they stopper their ears with sealing-wax? Will signs in thhe culture of half their neighbours make them lesser men?This nonsense was bound to eventually bite these people in the arse.with Gregory’s fixation on Gerry Adams and that man’s obvious baleful influence behind all of this for the past century or so…, You’d imagine that the man hadn’t retired at all .When he dies Gregory will want to pierce his black heart with a wooden stake …just to be sure …to be sure!
    The Ulster-Scots part of the deal garners barely a mention , exposing it as the tit-for-tat red-herring irrelevance that political unionism introduced into the mix, but hardly spoken about in any real detail.We all know why that is because the “Hamley tongue” has already been accepted locally as a benign colloquial slang ,handed down from the days of great grandparents’ schoolyard …spoken between mates or at home but not anywhere else.It’s easy to see why we say cup of “tae” instead of cup of “tea”…it’s what we’ve always done without wondering why or whether it was another language or just a funny way of speaking.That said …if they all want to call it a language rather than a local oddness , well then , bring it on!!! The more the merrier.It’s now as indigenous to our local culture as bits of Polish and Chines will be in a generation or two .We embraced many Italianisms over this past century since those folks arrived on our Irish shores, after all.We even embraced their ice -cream and fish and chips and are currently “gorbing” down a variety such as fettucine, masalas, biryanis,and a plethora of Mexican grub… how purely ” British” or purely “Irish” is this place, once again?
    So where does all of this leave unionism in the shape of the DUP? Well they’ve spent a long time hanging themselves on this particular nail.The negotiations ,whether bracketed or non-bracketed are the paper -trail of their wrigglings.Much as Mrs May struggles to square her Brexit circle that hoop that Mr Cameron has thrown her , the DUP are doing likewise with their “cultural” wranglings. By all intents they arrived at a rather good deal to the detriment of most of Sinn Fein’s base’s desires .Same sex marriage appears to have been kicked down the road, for example…and there were other concessions …Arlene was going to step back into her job without another word . i’m sure she’s gutted…you can tell by her body language that she isn’t happy …for all her talk.
    Was it a final deal without brackets? That doesn’t actually matter anymore.The very fact that they even agreed” in theory” to any of the things they actually talked about means that they wanted to get into Stormont badly enough to sup with their own specific devils again.They were all literally on the same pages, after all.The fact that they couldn’t sell any of it to their potential lawbreakers out there shouldn’t surprise anyone at all.When nationalism eventually gets its desired “recognition” there will be law-breakers aplenty, finally getting their chance to deface any little bit of Irishness….but then that’s what policemen and courts are for. We’re all paying for it anyway….who do you think is paying for the cleanup of the annual loyalist bonfires, eh?

  11. Edward glad you agree. Honestly the two sides are going nowhere. They both are a bunch of wasters and liars. They spent 14 months going round in circles and coming out with the same old rubbish. We as voters are as much to blame because we voted them in and nothing has changed. Therefore I want the Secretary of State to stop pussy footing about with the both sides and immediately set a budget and immediately slash their wages. Let’s have Direct Rule (best of a bad job) and have your English Civil Service draw up a foreign language act that gives respect to all languages, Irish, Welsh, Gaelic, polish, etc (notice I didn’t say Ulster Scott’s…..yes I am a Protestant bigot…..seriously when has that ever been considered a language, it’s plainly a dialect) and make it law in the whole of the UK. At the same time bring about a private member’s bill for same sex marriage or extend the same rights as they have in England into Northern Ireland. That way all the contentious issues will have been dealt with and then the parties can get back to waffling. People in NI are absolutely sick of this process and the endless talking for the sake of talking. I want action and I want this Secretary of State to produce the goods (personally I think she is a total waste of space and her predecessor wasn’t much better) but I’m willing to give her a chance. Surely she couldn’t be much worse than the bunch we have in place at the moment….could she?….probably.

  12. I just hate the way Language and the use of it has become politicised, even on here in this discussion. Let’s be honest if you want to speak what ever language you want then get on with it. Who is stopping you? Nobody. Not even the bigots of the DUP. If you speak a language like French then I won’t understand you because I mitched French lessons in school. So how will I understand you? I won’t. So what do you think I will ask you to do? Speak English, not Irish, not German but English. When Irish speakers come on the BBC what do they speak? English. Why, because most people understand English and if you want to get your point across you will (unfortunately have to speak English). So if people of a Republican persuasion want to speak Irish, I have no problem with that. The fact that I don’t understand them is neither here or there. As long as nobody is going to force me to learn French, Irish, Polish, Hindu…..I don’t care. And as far as I understand nobody was proposing this in any proposed agreement. Live and let live. I went to a funeral of friend who was also Protestant a number of years ago and he had a friend recite “The Lords My Shepherd” in Irish because that was one of his dying wishes. Nobody got up and walked out of that packed church, probably most people that were there didn’t know or care what language he was speaking. It’s just a language….nothing more. If you need help and you meet a stranger I wonder what language you will speak ? Will it be French, Irish, Polish, ? What do think? I think it will be English……maybe you will disagree and will say Irish but I think you would be telling wee fibs……I think most people would say English

  13. Noticeable that there is mention of parades on page 11 at section 2.10 which states “The Executive will bring forward the discussion paper on parades agreed in the ‘Fresh Start Agreement’.”
    I looked that up and found the relevant text from that document (below). It will be interesting to see how this pans out for people living in those areas that successfully stopped sectarian marches – Ormeau, Garvaghy, Bellaghy, etc. Will these areas be subjected to future parades as part of “A Respecting Languages and Diversity Bill”? A question that Sinn Féin need to clarify. Perhaps, they can also release the paper on parades prepared by OFMDFM in the aftermath of the Fresh Start/Stormont House Agreement.

    Pages 33 & 34, SECTION “F” of the Stormont House Agreement/Fresh Start Agreement

    16. Based on the considerable level of agreement in the Party Leader Talks, earlier this year, the UK Government proposes that –
    17. Powers to take responsibility for parades and related protests should, in principle, be devolved to the NI Assembly.
    18. The Office of Legislative Counsel, working in conjunction with OFMDFM, shall provide a range of options on how the remaining key issues which include the Code of Conduct, criteria and accountability could be addressed in legislation. OFMDFM shall bring forward proposals to the Executive by June 2015.
    19. The legislation will focus on the rights and responsibilities of those involved in, or affected by, parades and related protests, with proper regard for fundamental rights protected by the ECHR. The aim will be to balance the competing rights of those involved, but also to recognise the responsibilities they owe to others. The system will have regard to the following:
    a. regulation of parades and related protests should be based on the following approach: i) respect for the rule of law; ii) respect for those who parade; iii) respect for those who protest; and iv) respect for those who live and work in areas in which parades and protests take place;
    b. encouraging and facilitating direct, meaningful and sustained local dialogue should be at the heart of any new regulatory system for parades and protests;
    c. transparency, proportionality, openness and fairness; and
    d. independent adjudication will remain a necessary part of the regulatory process, but should be a last resort.
    20. There will be a full public consultation on any agreed legislation.
    Next steps: A discussion paper is currently being prepared for the Executive. The paper will outline options in relation to the model and operation of the regulation of parades and related protests and the key outstanding issues of contention such as code of conduct, criteria and accountability. OFMDFM will bring this paper forward to the Executive.

  14. I cant believe how much Sinn Fein compromised with this document. They have rolled back on 3 items and the 4th has been “hidden” from the DUP top brass apparently (legacy).

    If Sinn Fein don’t want to lose votes they would be best advised to pull this draught immediately.

    Unionism doesn’t want to compromise, and as a nationalist I’m looking to the bigger picture (Irish gov) to step up to the plate.

    Brexit notwithstanding.

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